Today we’d like to introduce you to Tameka Kee.
Tameka, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Power of Girls has been a song in my heart for years. Since my days as a community relations manager with the Atlanta Dream, I knew I wanted to have an empowerment program for girls. I also knew I wanted to do something to give back to the community, but I wasn’t sure how it would all come together until it did. I saw firsthand that girls needed a significant experience that would ultimately enable them to build their confidence and leadership skills. It was a gap in the development of so many girls that I was keen to address. What it took was me looking deep within myself and honestly inquiring about the pivotal moments in my life, and articulating what really made the difference for me.
The pivotal moment for me happened in middle school, and my mentors led the way. I was a serious Drama student but lacked the confidence I needed to have on stage. During this time, my Spanish teacher invited my grandmother and me on a student trip to Greece and Italy. It was a life-changing experience that altered how I perceived the world. My confidence shot through the roof, the person I knew myself to be had shifted. With my newfound insight and worldview, I decided to run for the President of my eighth grade class and won. This was an accomplishment at the time I did not think any girl could accomplish. I saw my older brother run and win two years earlier, so I assumed it was more a task for boys.
According to the 2017 Girls Index* Research, girls’ confidence declines sharply between fifth and ninth grade. While most girls like to be in charge, self-doubt can impact their pursuit of leadership opportunities. These stats personify how I felt growing up. I felt deeply moved to create a pivotal moment for middle school-aged girls. I wanted to impact girls in Atlanta from various backgrounds, socially and economically. I believe that ALL girls are underserved. The formula for me was to get a group of girls to sit down, level set, and see that we are all the same whether you are in America or India. Greater Atlanta Christian School or Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.
I sat down with my friend Aarica Smith of SSC Consulting and began to write a business plan for The Power of Girls. There are several girls’ organizations in Atlanta that I admire ̶ Girl Talk, Girl Scouts, to name a few. I wanted something intimate, and I wanted a “twist.” What if we could work and connect with these girls for a year, provide them mentors, and tie an international trip? It’s also important to note that the international component of The Power of Girls is not an afterthought. Like the research put forth by the Girls Index, there’s also a body of research asserting that girls and young women who are exposed to international travel at formative ages often gain integral leadership skills later in life – stemming from the exposure to a wide array of cultures, navigating different cultural norms, languages, global societies, etc.
So in 2019, we launched the programmatic portion of The Power of Girls culminating with an international trip for our first cohort, and it’s working. I know it’s working because I had a parent call me one day and tell me, “your organization saved my daughter’s life!” That day I knew we had to keep going. One life “saved.” That inspired me to keep going.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We are riding these streets, bi-ways, and highways every day, and there have certainly been many bumps in the road. Like most non-profits, we could greatly benefit from additional funding. Whether it be sponsorships, grants, or individual donations, we want to be sure our partnerships make sense.
When we first began in 2018, I didn’t have a plan for where or how we would recruit these girls. Would the community understand our mission? Did anyone care? Our first application drive produced TWO qualified candidates. I felt defeated. We went back to the drawing board, created a plan, got out in the community, targeted middle school counselors and teachers, and we ended up with a host of applicants but eventually landed on our first nine girls. We kicked off and built the plane as flew, and we flew high! We had a great group of mentors (Chelsey, Dani & Shalisha) that lead the way. We hosted two transformational retreats. Still, in the background, we were so far off our fundraising targets for the trip. Again, feeling defeated, how would I tell these girls we would have to postpone the trip or possibly cancel? Things managed to come together, from t-shirt sales (we have a girl empowerment clothing line), Board donations, friendships, and family we were able to hit our target and went to London in June 2019. It was a remarkable and memorable experience for the girls.
Please tell us about the organization.
The Power of Girls is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta. Our mission is to serve, inspire, and empower young girls to develop into confident, well-rounded global leaders through mentorship, team building, and cultural experiences.
Each year, we select a class of The Power of Girls to participate in our year-long “Power House” curriculum focused on developing confidence, leadership skills, and self-awareness. The programming culminates with an international trip. Upon completion of the program, Power of Girls participants become part of our active alumni leadership group. Why international travel? Travel is a way to view the world through a broader lens- understanding different cultures and widening our perspectives. For young girls, especially, travel is both eye-opening and empowering. It allows us to stretch our comfort zones, build confidence in new skills, spark our curiosity, and explore our ideas about the world around us. For our Power of Girls, travel is truly a transformative experience!
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The biggest lesson I learned, and I would tell anyone that is starting a non-profit, is to stick to your mission. There were too many times where I wanted to go the “easier” route by conforming to what everyone else thought I should do. I had to block out noise, trust my gut, my board, and believe that all of it would come together. If I knew what I knew when I started, I wouldn’t have worried as much. There were so many nights I wouldn’t and couldn’t sleep because I kept saying, “What if?!”. I never said, “Why?” so I kept going. Keep your “Why” close to you. Our Board, volunteers, committee members, Power of Girl parents, and my close friends keep me grounded. I have a great support system where I can noodle on an idea and have people that give me great feedback. Feedback is truly a gift!
- Girl Empowerment T-shirt- $22.99
- Sponsorship Packages Start at $500.00
- Website: www.thepowerofgirls.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thepowerofgirls/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepowerofgirlsorg/
Holland Reid Photography